The following day was the day of the actual event for the Silence Shoot. We were hosted by Northern Kentucky University’s Office of LGBTQ Services. I had met the director of the office last October when I was working with GLSEN Cincinnati as they hosted their youth summit in the student union of the school.

41Let me tell you about NKU (Northern Kentucky University), and how pretty the campus looks. As you drive up, you don’t really see much, just a bunch of glass and concrete buildings banded together, but when you drive through it, the modern architecture just makes it such an interesting place to be. True, the school isn’t as old as Michigan State University, so it doesn’t have the historic presence, but it more than made up for that.

17807437_753082958205989_7595353213730720499_oBonnie, the director of the office of LGBTQ Services at NKU, is probably one of the sweetest people I’ve met. Come to think of it, I haven’t met someone who has the director position of the LGBTQ groups we’ve worked with that I don’t like.

17835197_753083624872589_4766986056927330905_oWe were set up near the cafeteria area of the student union, right beside a gorgeous, floor to ceiling set of windows that looked out onto the courtyard. Apparently, from what we saw, the LGBTQ+ students and their allies were doing a pride march throughout their campus. They were waving their respective flags in pride, and no one started any drama with them. I asked a few different participants of the shoot, and they all said no one was giving them any shit for being a part of the pride march. It was a refreshing thing to hear, especially given the climate that marginalized groups are going through.

Once the shoot was over, and I finished signing our contract for the school, Bonnie 17854800_753082688206016_1154317419644325214_oinvited me to get drinks at the Hotel Covington’s bar. Of course I accepted because I wanted to see if they were interested in bringing the shoot back again, and I wanted to get to know her a bit more. However, I did have to schedule it carefully because I had some… stuff going on later in the evening with someone I had been talking with since my last trip to the area. For confidentiality purposes, let’s call him Peter. Yes, I had plans to have Peter come up to my hotel, and it being just him and I alone, in a hotel room, two gay bears. What could happen?

My phone buzzed, alerting me of a text I had received from Bonnie. I went directly down to the bar and sat with her and her wife (I, unfortunately, have forgotten her name), and 17553490_10155286004669548_5892865075657478292_nasked for a recommendation on what to drink. I like sweet alcohol, and I love wine, so I wanted something to reflect both of those, so Bonnie’s wife recommended me “Bubbles”, a rose cider made in Cincinnati. It was superb. Even though it had an under taste like beer, I still enjoyed it (I really dislike beer). Jaime joined us as they got a glass of some form of white wine. The four of us talked about the shoot that had just ended, and about the hotel and how much we enjoyed it. We also discussed how Bonnie’s wife (fuck I really hate that I don’t remember her name) oversees a nonprofit organization in Covington. The two of us got to talking about how stressful and intense the process can be for filing for nonprofit status with a 501(c)(3) which is exactly what I want for the Silence Shoot. This didn’t really give me a whole lot of optimism for when I have to do my filing for the shoot, but it was nice to meet someone who had done it. The more people I meet who have done this successfully, the more realistic it becomes.

After drinks, we said our good-byes except they weren’t good-byes at all, they were more like “see ya later” because we put some wheels in motion for future shoots. We’ll be coming back to the Cincinnati/Covington area before 2018, for sure. Jaime and I returned to the room so I could get showered and spruced up for my visitor to arrive and we could 17457482_10155284980379548_4556029663787663004_nhave some fun. As I looked at myself in our gorgeous mirror, I looked at my dry skin on my face, the weight hanging from my bones, and the grey hair shimmering in my hair and I thought- damn, I’m fine as hell. Yes, I might not have the best features that society thinks I should have, but I work with what I have and I own what I have with confidence and incredible pride. This mentality followed into the events to follow in the evening (but I don’t want this post to be marked too explicitly). ­­

After, how shall I put it, “fun”, Peter and I left the hotel and made our way into Cincinnati to visit a restaurant that he had suggested- The Eagle. When he first suggested this place, I instantly thought of the famed leather bar, but I was quickly corrected by Peter. What a place it was, too. The two of us had two separate entrées and then shared 17553599_10155286392454548_5603253375883178883_nour appetizers. His entrée was a fried chicken sandwich that consisted of a thick cut of chicken underneath a collection of coleslaw, spicy mustard, and between two toasty buns. My entrée was two fat pieces of fried, white meat chicken, drizzled in a spicy honey sauce. Just from my chicken alone, I was about to faint from how amazing it was. Our appetizers, however, were where my heart sang as loud as it could. The two of us shared two medium-sized skillets of food; one had a delicious, sweet cornbread that had actual kernels of corn baked into it so with every other bite you had a punch of pure corn flavor, and the second was of creamy, decadent mac n’ cheese, topped with a garlic bread crumb that had been baked atop of it. This entire meal had me, figuratively, on the floor praying to whatever God that could exist, about how much this food touched the fragments of soul I hadn’t sold yet.

Afterwards, when I returned to my hotel, I sat alone for a while, basking in the light from the street lamps outside of my giant hotel window. I reflected on the day we had, about the attitudes that were had, and about how, despite everything, I still love putting red duct tape on peoples’ mouths and taking their photograph. I love it now as much as I did two years ago, five years ago, and seven years ago, and I hope to keep this momentum going for as long as I possibly could.

17458260_10155287653654548_3880403275880758279_nPacking everything up into my suitcase was hard, going on the elevator down to the lobby was hard, and checking out of the hotel was hard. Not on an actual difficulty level, as it was easy to do (technically), but it was hard emotionally. Covington was good to us, they fed us well, made sure our glasses weren’t empty, and truly welcomed us into Kentucky.

As we loaded up Jaime’s car, began heading home to Lansing, I kept thinking about how badly I was looking forward to coming back, and how much I felt that Ryan would have loved it if he were with me.